The Realm of Fig and Quince
Quince and fig must be the most romantic of all European fruits, perhaps because they are among the oldest, perhaps because the luxury of their perfume and texture provokes the most enthusiastic of responses in the poetry and prose of Persia, of Greece, and of the West itself. The Dutch author Ria Loohuizen has already written The Elder and The Chestnut, published by Prospect Books, and here she offers the same blend of history, anecdote, literary reference and recipes in respect of the fig and the quince. Because the quince has so particular and pungent a flavour, anticipating in some ways the citrus fruits of the later modern era, it was the precursor ingredient of many marmalades (the word was indeed coined for the quince) and conserves. She therefore includes a brief look at sugar in early-modern cookery as preface to a section on quince pastes (of which the Spanish membrillo is the most famous modern version). Her recipes range wider than Europe, including Persia to the east and North Africa to the south, for the stamping grounds of these fruits were far greater than merely the West. Some of them are truly enticing: chicken with quince and walnut sauce; quince sherbet; Turkish stuffed quinces; quince mostarda; savoy cabbage with fennel and quince; anchovy and fig sauce with fried shrimp; stuffed figs with olive oil ice cream; rabbit with figs; fig bread from the Maghreb; and fig tagine.